Feb 28 2011

How to Slay a Strawman

It’s a bad practice to construct strawmen to tear down. It may convince people that your arguments are strong but it invites real people to discuss your ideas because they take umbrage to your strawman portraying the subject matter incorrectly. It’s kind of like claiming to be a chess grandmaster because you keep beating yourself at chess. Someone will challenge you and they may be the real deal.
I recently came across a irate letter from a “medical student” to the lovely people at Nature News outraged at the bias in their reporting. The reason I doubt that the medical student is real is that a lot of his arguments are incoherent and structured terribly. There is real evidence for vaccination being better than the alternative.
What’s quite scary is that there is no real argument between medicine and these individuals. We just ignore them for the most part, quite bemused that people would put their faith in a fruit smoothie made by someone whose degree was purchased over the internet while our calculated doses are maligned. I think it is the comfort of knowing that the majority of us are kept in the money by simple human stupidity and that there is no way to change the viewpoints of an individual.
Medical student: I don’t think I have ever been more angered by a website in my life. So much of this information is completely faulty.

Z. Miller: All of the information on our Thinktwice Global Vaccine Institute website can be verified.
I had a look around the Thinktwice website. It’s rocking the finest code out of the 1990s. The Thinktwice Global Vaccine institute seems to be packing some strange brand of crazy conspiracy theories. Apparently polio vaccines can cause AIDS (a belief from tribal Nigeria no less that has spread across a lot of the muslim world). This alone has crippled any basis of legitimacy your website link has. Any medical student with a few minutes of time could have checked this out. Then there is the lovely idea that only a handful of people died from small pox in 1967 when the smallpox eradication program began. I would say that the figure given on the website is wrong. According to the Website, the WHO posted a mortality rate of 12,000 worldwide. In 1967 the WHO posted a mortality rate of 2,000,000 individuals. 2 million dead place it as one of the bigger killers of human beings. It was lower than the year before because smallpox was the first vaccine.  The vaccinations quickly dropped the rate. And put it this way, the smallpox disease was deadly and the same arguments that you use today were used back then including the idea that we would turn into cows as the attenuated virus was from cattle.
So to recap, your source has no idea how polio vaccines work and has outright misstated the figures for smallpox and misjudged the disease that killed one in ten people.

MS: Your site states that “Many of the disease outbreaks that we are warned about today, are caused by, and occur in, recently vaccinated children.” This is because of plain old numbers! The majority of kids are vaccinated (because their parents and their doctors use LOGIC), thus, more diseases come from them.

NZM: Actually, the majority of kids are vaccinated because the medical industry uses coercive tactics, intimidation, skewed data, and compulsory vaccination laws in order for children to receive an education. Without these factors, many more people would not receive the shots. Furthermore, several studies have shown that educated parents are the most likely to reject vaccines. For example, a recent study by the CDC found that vaccinated children tend to have mothers who are poor, unmarried and did not go to college. Unvaccinated children tend to have mothers who are financially stable, married, and have a college degree. In addition, medical doctors have little influence over their decisions. [Pediatrics2004;114:187-195.]

Another recent study published in theAmerican Journal of Public Health,confirmed that vaccinated children are more likely to have mothers without a high school diploma while unvaccinated children are more likely to have mothers who graduated from college. [Am J of Public Health(Feb. 2007);97(2).] Another study conducted last year found that
parents with more education were less likely to get their daughters vaccinated against HPV. [PLoS Med(May 4, 2010);7(5).]

Your medical student has zero idea of how things work. This is basic high school biology that is expanded in medical school. Vaccinated people are sensitized to a disease and their immune system is ready to respond to the antigens submitted when a pathogen enters their system preventing it from taking hold. They don’t transmit or carry diseases that they are vaccinated against because their immune system responds to any pathogen before it can even infect them. It’s the reason that people like the Amish are healthier now than a hundred years ago. This is due to the herd of people around them having fewer diseases to pass on because we have improved both standards of hygiene and improved our immune systems via vaccinations. Remember how people say that if you let children play in dirt their immune systems are boosted? This is a scientific way of doing that without telling our children to get diseases such as tetanus or TB or Polio.

Compulsory vaccination laws are designed to create the herd immunity and to ensure your children don’t get a horrible disease. We aren’t coercive. We simply state that “there are some deadly diseases out there and vaccines are the safest way to protect your children against these diseases. There is always a risk but the disease itself is probably riskier.” 

Skewed Data? I study in India where the MMR vaccine’s penetration is poor. One of the biggest killers of children is meningitis caused by Measles. The MMR vaccines cuts down on the side effects of the individual vaccines. It saves lives. Prior to 2002 in the US a measles death was unheard of. The scare mongering of people like yourselves has cost the lives of nearly a 1000 people (As verifiable by the Jenny McCarthey Death Count website) who would have normally died. This death toll does not match any reduction in the incidence of autism either. 

As for demography… I checked your sources.

The first one is about gardasil a voluntary vaccine. Majority of middle class America is of the belief that HPV is a STD and so don’t vaccinate their children because it means admitting that their children have sex. While poorer families know that their kids have sex. Gardasil will save quantifiable amounts of young women’s lives and stop the spread of penile cancer in men. Its brilliant since vaccinating half the population stops the spread of a virus that causes cancer. We know it causes cancer because of something called Koch’s Postulates which you would know about being a trained medical professionals. 

The second article specifically mentions that the uptake of vaccines is low in black communities but high in Hispanic ones. Hispanic communities often have living relatives who are familiar with diseases such as Tuberculosis (BCG vaccine), Polio and other childhood diseases and so physically have seen the change that vaccination has achieved in their society in decreasing mortality.

Another point to make is this. Not all degrees are equal. I would not trust a engineer to handle my accounts despite the fact that an engineer is probably as smart as an accountant. If one looks at the vaccination rates in science graduates, teachers and doctors, one sees that it’s incredibly high.

Lastly, more often than not we encourage vaccinations to families utilising government medical systems such as those who are poor because here vaccinations are the most cost effective way of saving money on healthcare because they both prevent disease and the spread of said diseases through a population.

MS: Your implication that the diseases result from them being vaccinated is a terribly false claim. One baby DOES put others at risk. Some kids can’t be vaccinated because of allergies to ingredients in vaccines. They are now put at a far greater risk of getting diseases from those who are unvaccinated by choice.

NZM: Regarding ingredients in vaccines, I recommend the following video on Overdosed Babies. It explains in detail the exact ingredients in vaccines — one of the reasons educated parents reject the shots for their children. It is unethical to obligate parents to poison their children and play Russian Roulette with their lives in order to satisfy vaccination quotas. If it’s true that some children cannot be vaccinated, as you claim, because of the current composition of vaccines, then the medical industry and vaccine manufacturers must be held responsible to improve their products so that everyone wanting the shots has that option. However, families should never be obligated to risk their childrenaa???s lives.

It should also be noted that many diseases certainly DO result from vaccination. This is due to adverse reactions and/or failure of the vaccine. This is well documented in the medical literature.

Your medical student does not understand basic immunity. I seriously doubt his qualifications for this reason and believe this person to be made up. One baby does not put anyone else at risk if everyone in the population is vaccinated. What the risk is that your website espouses unsound practice under the guise of medicine. Traditionally this is what we call charlatanry. You actively pretend to be doctors and espouse false ideas on medication and healthcare that people believe because they cannot understand medicine because in order to understand how medicine works you need to have a medical degree while the idea that “natural means good” is something that we parrot daily to our children regarding food and we apply the same logic to medicine. W
e generally tend to forget that rattle snake venom is natural too. And it is incredibly bad for us. What you are encouraging is the weakening of the herd immunity creating populations of people where disease can spread because more and more people follow your ideals at the cost of their own health or worse their children’s health.

Thiomersal? It’s not used in most modern vaccines. And again chemistry is important. Mercuric Sulphate is a chelatable metal salt that is excreted through the body. By your logic NaCl is a deadly poison since eating Na results in your mouth being set on fire and inhaling chlorine is one of the major causes of death circa WW1. And educated parents are often not educated. A philosophy degree counts as educated when it means an incredible understanding of philosophy but a terrible understanding of humoral mediated immunity (Note Humoral Immunity works by antigens. Not by taking Vitamins) 

I would hope you never trust me to fix your plumbing or trust your plumber to treat your heart attack.

MS: A child does not have the right to choose whether or not to be vaccinated. It sickens me to think that parents out there make the choice to not vaccinate their children and put them at a far greater risk for disease. It disgusts me.

NZM: Perhaps we should put you in charge of health decisions for all families. Then, everyone could simply do as you say and no one would need to think on their own anymore. Your arrogant and self-righteous attitude is disappointing but quite typical of the average doctor. You appear destined to perpetuate the damage we see in vaccinated populations.

Okay. Finally your Medical Student makes a decent point. Children are completely stupid. Their excuse is because they are children and must learn knowledge to fill up their brains before they can be set loose on the world. Otherwise they grow up to not understand it. You don’t let children decide what they should eat because you end up with sick children. 

Have you seen an unvaccinated population? The percentage of Indians affected with Ghon’s Focus is 30%. Indian children are given BCG vaccinations at birth to increase their immunity to TB. TB still kills millions but it would kill 10s of millions without this vaccine and without our medication. Perhaps you should come see a population without widespread vaccination to see what you are missing out on. Doctors never say that we should make your decisions for you. We encourage patients to understand our field.

And letting medical professionals make health decisions would produce better results than letting untrained individuals make decisions. Again the analogy is that despite my education levels being extremely high I am not allowed to fly an aircraft despite arguably being as well trained (at something different) as a pilot. 

It is a simple fact that people who have followed your advice have died because of that advice. You are as complicit in death as Dr. Spock is (making your children sleep on their stomach increases cot deaths). You may genuinely believe in it but you are wrong and quantifiably so. If you wish I can design a triple blind experiment (Your treatment/Placebo/Real Medicine) where we sit down and in a completely unbiased way treat patients. If you really want I can suggest we go down to Bihar where there are plenty of lepers so our cures are now binary (you either cure the leper or you do not) and we can test our medications vs. placebo effect in an unbiased way and settle the differences once and for all. Infact, Mr. James Randi has repeatedly agreed to sponsor such a test and indeed offered a prize of a million dollars to the winner. I would very much like to win that. It would make my life a lot more comfortable.  So how about it?  

MS: You state that “Recently vaccinated children carry the disease germ and are able to spread it to other children.” First off, “germ” is in no way a technical term. Vaccines carry DEAD or INACTIVE disease cells.

NZM: Please forgive us for not using the technical term “dead disease cells” to describe the antigenic component designed to stimulate antibody production. Your choice of words is much more descriptive and illuminating.

Medical Student again does not understand vaccines. There are many types of vaccines. There are live vaccines where a non virulent strain is used to sensitise the body’s immune system. There are attenuated vaccines where the pathogenic strain is heavily weakened (this is the original theory of the Rabies Vaccine). There are killed vaccines where the lifeless pathogen is induced. This is preferred in bacteria and viruses where toxin production is seen. Then there are antigenic vaccines which collect various proteins indicative of pathogenic reactions that the body responds to. Now the body identifies these and responds via lymphocytes. Usually this means nothing noticeable or a low grade fever/symptoms as the body fights the perceived theat. Occasionally we see hypersensitivity reactions in much the same way as a peanut allergy because any antigen is potentially allergenic.
What you are trying to do is portray your Strawman as a jerk who cannot understand and use simple English. I am afraid most doctors these days are incredibly well trained at talking to patients.

MS: Other children cannot “catch” a disease from another child just because he or she has just been vaccinated.” These are all lies.

NZM: Actually, this is quite common and well documented in the medical literature. Vaccinated children can, and do, pass the disease on to others. Scientists euphemistically refer to these cases as “secondary transmissions.” You can read the product insert of the chickenpox or FluMist vaccines to get an idea. For example, the chickenpox manufacturer states:
“Post-marketing experience suggests that transmission of vaccine virus may occur rarely between healthy vaccinees who develop a varicella-like rash and healthy susceptible contacts.” The admission that it “rarely” occurs is grossly understated when compared to other data showing much higher secondary transmission rates.

These are extremely rare and this is mainly seen in the chickenpox vaccine which is a tenacious virus. The varicella rash lasts for a few days, does not cause fever or any of the other symptoms and its transmission rate is a lot lower than say full blown chickenpox. You don’t see this in killed vaccines or antigenic vaccines. 

MS: You state that “Doctors almost NEVER admit a correlation between vaccines and serious reactions.” I would like to see your website cite studies that show that these complications were the result of a vaccine. I would like to see you prove how DEAD cells suddenly become alive and cause disease in vaccinated individuals.

NZM: Our site does list many studies. For example, the Hib vaccine has been linked to diabetes. [BMJ(Oct. 23, 1999);Autoimmunity2002;35(4):247-53.] The hepatitis B vaccine has been linked to MS and pediatric multiple sclerosis. [Neurology2004;63:838-842;Chinese Medical Journal2006;119(1):77-79;Neurology(Oct 8, 2008);Neurology(Dec 17, 2008).] I would also recommend the following book to you:Make an Informed Vaccine Decision by Mayer Eisenstein, MD. It contains numerous studies showing correlations between vaccines and serious adverse reactions.

It would also be enlightening for you to spend time reading the reports filed with the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). There are about 25,000 reports filed annually and the FDA has estimated that adverse reactions to drugs are underreported by 1:100. In other words, multiply 25,000 by 100 to get a better idea of the true number of people likely to be hurt every year by vaccines.

Medical Student here does not understand that viral cells are the very border of life and chemical and exist solely in a biochemical state of life and the definition really is hard to apply to them.

The HiB vaccine which you so proudly state causes an increase of 0.6% in Diabetic cases.

The study makes no correlation of the socio-economic statuses of the individuals studied. Higher socio-economic status increases diabetes in children. Now to specifically deconstruct your statement specifically. I have pulled up the paper you mentioned. the incidence in 100,000 people normally of diabetes is (at age 7/age 10) 261/398, 237/376, and 207/340 for 4, 1 and 0 doses of the vaccine.

        The source of your information is faulty. The website seems to be incredibly anti vaccine claiming to be fighting for the benefit of vaccines yet not listing any logic in its reporting. Seasonal flu has a mortality rate of around 0.1%. The incidence of flu in an unvaccinated society is roughly one in three. Lets say 30,000 flu cases = 30 flu deaths (This is without other flu effects). The thing is a flu is something that appears yearly in different forms. Having the disease once is not a guarantee that you will not get it again. There is a good chance that these unvaccinated kids will get the flu again and again. Within 4 years (4 vaccination schedules) the flu vaccine would have saved more lives than  the 60 diabetics, saved more people from permanent illness and saved more money for everyone involved. Just remember even with vaccination roughly  41,000 people died of the flu in just the US. 
      Now you are going to understand something special about medicine. The human body is brilliant and it’s evolved to survive. The checks and balances that power us is called physiology. When physiology goes wrong it forms the pathology of a disease. There are many reasons for that and we are all familiar with them. However, medication is a chemical method of altering physiology to create a variety of effects. Not all of these effects are good, you cannot affect a system without affecting others in the same way that you cannot push down on a seesaw without something going up. No system in the body is unlinked and a drug that has a positive effect somewhere can have a negative effect somewhere else simply by nature of how different parts of your body work. 

MD: Sincerely, a future MD who is sickened by the fact that she will have to deal with patients who share these views in her future career.

NZM: Sincerely, a medical research journalist who is disturbed by the number of people hurt and killed by vaccines every year, alarmed at the deceptive, autocratic methods that are used to increase these numbers, and deeply troubled by the callous attitude that medical industry perpetrators have toward their victims.

If you are indeed a medical journalist then you would know how many lives are saved by vaccines. What you have is bias. You do not understand medicine because to you it’s all about drugs and chemistry. Your view stems from vaccines themselves. Vaccines have made our world safer from childhood disease. The USA’s infant mortality rate is 6 per 1000 live births. It’s high for a first world nation. Most of Europe packs in at around 4 (Vaccination is compulsory in a lot of places here and it shows in the demographics). Vaccination is common here and has eliminated a lot of the childhood diseases which used to kill our kids. So we forgot the fear of these diseases. You yourself proved it by linking to a website which didn’t understand the sheer horror of days when smallpox still existed and the fear we have that there are forms of it still out there that can return. The same site linked polio vaccines to AIDs a tragic rumour that spread through Nigeria resulting in a resurgence of polio killing unknown amounts of people despite polio and HIV not even being from the same family of viruses. The very same website treated the flu like a joke, not something that is one of the leading causes of death in our elderly.

Why? Your world is safer now that we made it safe. You have forgotten what we have done to make it this safe and the price people used to pay. The third world is far away and we don’t like hearing about people dying from curable diseases because of a lack of resources so we never paid attention to all the lives saved. Vaccines are the cheapest way to decrease mortality.

No doctor will say that medicine is safe. The symbol of medicine is a staff with a snake coiled around it. The snake represents pharmacy, poison that can cure. You don’t study biochemistry so you cannot understand the interplay of drugs. You have no grasp of physiology, pharmacology, microbiology and pathology. There are always effects no matter what you consume, some wanted and some unwanted. We don’t give medicine to those who are not sick for a reason.

Remember, in sufficient quantities oxygen will corrode your lungs and water will burst your cells. The building blocks of humanity are carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and hydrogen. Yet Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Oxygen can produce chemicals so corrosive it will burn our flesh. Hydrogen, Carbon and Nitrogen determine the fate of our cells. A different combination gives rise to hydrogen cyanide which will determine the fate of our cells in a very terminal way. There is always a price in taking medicine, which is why we ensure you require it. Our work is transparent. There are countless websites where we routinely sit down and explain how things work with brutal honesty.

You are entitled to your opinion. But if you proceed to give medical advice then we are entitled to point out the flaws because you are killing people with this advice. Some people do not have recourse to free medicine and must make the choice. They think yours is cheaper and follow your method. By the time they come to us it is too late to help them. Medicine is preventative as well as curative and prevention is our forte.

And the offer to participate in a medical study still remains. I am certain I can rope in a fair few medical students who have the talents to prove you wrong and there is always James Randi’s prize to make the deal a bit sweeter.  Time permitting of course, I do have to study medicine.

1 comment

  1. 1
    Sophie Gaerlan

    Some broadcasters prefer to present animated humor as antiquated humor in an attempt to prompt public interest to turn in the direction of the animated humor cartoon programs that center on wizardly deeds and demons that threaten the total existence of the human race. Some of these characters act stupid enough to cause world destruction but are in no way the animated humor we have all come to know and love through the years.’`^^


    See ya later

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